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Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
Orbit Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781841498935
Date: 07 October 2010 List Price 18.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /

I confess I've been a little underwhelmed by Iain M. Banks' two most recent SF offerings. I found The Algebraist a ponderous, thick-skinned beast (see my review here) and his last straight SF novel Matter (reviewed here), hailed as a return to The Culture turned out to be only peripherally so. This new work, Surface Detail is also a novel of The Culture and I do hope it proves as stunning as those early books in the sequence which turned me onto SF more than anything else I read in my teens. Published by Orbit in hardcover.

"It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture. Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality. It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether. "

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